BATS

Oliver took it upon himself to teach Hazel how to read today.  He asked me how he had learned, and I told him that we had started with simple letter combinations, like AT, and then built on them, by adding “B” for bat, and “C” for cat, etc.

So, Oliver walked over to his chalkboard and wrote “AT” on it.  His conversation with Hazel proceeded like this:

Oliver:  Hazel, A-T says at.

Hazel:  At.

Oliver:  Good!  Now you can read at!!

(Oliver writes a B in front of at.)

Oliver:  Hazel, what sound does B make?

Hazel:  Buh.

Oliver:  That is correct.  [Note:  He really said that!]  Now, if you put ‘buh’ with ‘at’, what does it say?

Hazel:  Buh-at.

Oliver:  That is incorrect.  It says bat.

Hazel: Bat.

Oliver:  Good!  You can read bat now.

(Oliver writes an S after bat.)

Oliver:  Hazel, what sound does S say?

Hazel:  Ssss.

Oliver:  Right.  Now, if you add S to bat, it says bats.

Hazel:  Bats.

Oliver:  Correct!  You can read bats now.

(Oliver writes a QU after BATS.)

Oliver:  Hazel, what does QU say?

Hazel:  I don’t know.  (walks away.  Oliver grabs her arm and drags her back.)

Oliver:  QU says “kwuh”.

Hazel:  Kwuh.

Oliver:  Good!  Now, what does it say at the end of bats?

Hazel:  Kwuh.

Oliver:  Batsqu.

Oliver then writes a – and underneath it writes the word LINE.  The chalkboard now looks like this:

BATSQU-
LINE

Oliver:  Hazel, L-I-N-E says line.

Hazel:  Line.

Oliver:  Now it says batsquline.

Hazel:  Batsquline.

Oliver (looking at me):  Mommy, Hazel can read now.  I just taught her.

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Recycled Halloween Decorations

I will be the first to admit that not only am I absolutely awful at doing arts and crafts with my kids (I have a rare inability to draw a recognizable stick figure), but I hate it too (the mess!  the drama! the stickiness!).

However, I am a big sucker for the fall holidays.  I love Halloween.  I love Thanksgiving.  I love that you (not me, but you) can draw a turkey with nothing more clever than two hands.  I’m also a big fan of reusing stuff that we buy, because it teaches my kids values and responsibility and junk like that.  (Also, it’s cheaper.)

So I have taken it upon myself to have my kids help me make decorations.

For our spiders below (which are soon to decorate our doorway), we took an egg carton, cut it up and painted the body and faces, added some pipe cleaner for antenna–which I kept calling antlers, much to Oliver’s dismay–and legs.  I used a meat thermometer to punch the holes into the cardboard to put the pipe cleaners through, as well as to make holes to tie some twine to.

Oliver was able to do most of the work himself–he put the pipe cleaner in and drew the face on his (the green one).  Hazel didn’t particularly want to try, so she just chose the colors for the things that she wanted, and I helped her put it together.

Punching Pillow

I posted before about anger. This is what I am trying with Oliver and Hazel, to help them manage their emotions in a healthy way. Anger is normal for everyone, but it is my job to teach my kids how to appropriately deal with intense emotions.

It isn’t okay to hurt other people, or themselves when they are angry. They also shouldn’t destroy their stuff, because later they would regret it.

So, the punching pillow. A natural inclination for my kids (and for me too) is to want to physically vent anger. I realize this probably isn’t the best, but it is what it is. Some people get a punching bag, some people go work out. My kids now have a similar outlet-their punching pillow.

Oliver and I talke about the things he wants to do when he is angry, and we wrote them all on the pillowcase. Now, if he gets mad, I can direct him to the pillow until he has spent the physical, overwhelming portion of his anger, before he is capable of talking calmly about it.

We will see how it works out. In the meantime, we have an angry pillow.

Teach Me! Teach Me!

One of the best surprises about our new place is that it turns out that we live in the district for what is considered by many to be Chicago’s best public elementary school. They also have a preschool, and give preference to kids in the neighborhood (us!). Which is great news.

The bad news is that they didn’t have any openings for the current year, and we don’t know (and won’t know for a couple of months) about next year. It’s possible that Oliver won’t be going to preschool at all, and it is definite that I need to get in gear and get applications in at some other places if I want him to go next year, just in case this school doesn’t work out.

Going hand-in-hand with this, Oliver has begun refusing to take naps. This is incredibly frustrating for me, because naptime has always been me-time. Both kids are really demanding of me–they aren’t content to be in the same room with me, they want to be sitting on me, climbing on me, playing with me, etc. So from morning til night, I don’t get a break, either mental or physical. So, after spending a few days being frustrated with Oliver’s naplessness, I decided to be all Serenity-Prayerful about it, and accept the things that I cannot change.

Which means that while Hazel naps and Oliver doesn’t, I spend some time with him one-on-one doing preschool activities. And he loves it. I’m no teacher, and I think I might actually be quite terrible at what I’m doing, but he comes with a lot of raw potential (i.e. he’s kind of brilliant), which helps. I’ve been printing out alphabet and numeral handwriting sheets and really simple word searches, and we’ve been taking them a letter and a number at a time, tracing them and practicing writing them. He really enjoys it (we only spend 15-30 minutes every day, depending on how excited he is about it, and I try not to push him too hard on any of it). And during preschool time, he insists on calling me Teacher.

Oliver has had a good grasp of numbers for awhile, and even surprises me sometimes with his basic math skills. Last week, I was making lunch for him and Hazel, and had put five chicken fingers into the microwave to heat up. Oliver asked how many I was heating up, and I told him that I had made three for him and two for Hazel. And he said, “Oh, so you’re making five?” It blew my mind a little. In a good way. 🙂

Along with getting comfortable with writing the numbers and what the numbers mean, I was curious about whether he could actually recognize numbers when he saw them, and put it together with what they represent. So I decided to try making some matching games on his chalkboard, drawing goldfish crackers and having him match the number of crackers to the number. As you can see, he did a great job. Also, I am terrible and drawing.

April Showers

I was reading a blog post by Mama Saga about an activity she did with her daughter during the month of March.

I realized that I am a slacker mom whose activities with her own children involve more throwing stuff at each other, dancing and singing silly songs (all of which are important and fun) and probably not enough learning and conceptual stuff. Oliver is smart nonetheless, probably more a product of genetics and less a product of my incessant need to make rhymes out of our conversations. But I’ve seen him flourish in Sunday school classes and under the direction of our incredibly nanny.

So, I decided to do what any American-high-school educated girl would do. I copied Mama Saga. 🙂

Since March is over, I had to come up with a new idea. (And note that although I suggested it, Conner actually implemented it, so I actually deserve no credit for this even a little bit.) The slogan for April is that April showers bring May flowers. We created a calendar for the month and are putting raindrops or suns on it depending on the weather that day. At the end of the month, we can count up the number of days that it rained and see if there were a lot of April showers.

Here is the calendar that Conner and Oliver made this morning.
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PS: If it’s not obvious, Oliver did the coloring of the calendar… (although it easily could have been me).